Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Israel to reopen Gaza fishing zone to 10 nautical miles

The move came after a new round of Qatari money entered the coastal enclave

Palestinian fishermen take to the Mediterranean sea in Gaza City on June 18, 2019. Israel announced Palestinian fishermen were allowed to travel up to 6 nautical miles into the Mediterranean after 5 days of blockade. AFP
Palestinian fishermen take to the Mediterranean sea in Gaza City on June 18, 2019. Israel announced Palestinian fishermen were allowed to travel up to 6 nautical miles into the Mediterranean after 5 days of blockade. AFP

Israel is to reopen the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza to 10 nautical miles, local media reported on Tuesday, after it closed the entire waterway to Palestinian fishermen.

Israel's military had closed the waters off of the territory it blockades in response to balloons that Palestinians attach flaming rags to and then fly into Israeli territory. It was a rare move as Israel usually restricts the zone but never fully closes it.

The flaming balloons have set alight Israeli farmland. Israel has condemned the balloons as the cause of millions of dollars worth of damage while Palestinians say it is another method they use to protest the against 12-year blockade that has left the territory on the brink of collapse.

The move came after a new round of Qatari money entered the coastal enclave on Sunday, delivered by a delegation led by Doha's envoy to the enclave, Mohammed Al Emadi.

A Qatari technical delegation also held talks in Israel and the Gaza Strip this week about helping to pay for a proposed new power line between them, officials on both sides said, marking a potential expansion of Doha's aid efforts for Palestinians.

Qatar has in recent years funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars into relief projects in Hamas-controlled Gaza, which it views as helping to stave off privation and fighting with Israel. Some Palestinians have bristled at the Qatari payments in return for quiet, and the funnelling of money and power through Israel.

The intervention is approved by Israel but has gone largely unacknowledged by rightist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has cold-shouldered Doha for its ties to Iran and Islamist groups such as Hamas.

Spearheading the Qatari drive has been envoy Mr Al Emadi, who Palestinian officials said this week brought $10 million to Gaza, via Israel, to disburse to the poor.

It was the third such Qatari cash infusion in three months, said the officials, who requested anonymity. But this time Mr Al Emadi was accompanied by Qatari electricity and water experts.

They met the Israel Electric Corporation in Tel Aviv on Sunday, and in Gaza with energy officials on Monday, to discuss a Qatari offer to pay for the completion of a new Gaza electricity line, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

Mr Netanyahu is running for re-election in September having failed to put together a new conservative coalition after coming ahead in an April ballot – partly owing to far-right accusations that he has not been tough enough on Hamas.

Updated: June 18, 2019 04:12 PM

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